The Oregon Department of Agriculture is proposing a rule mandating inspection of crucifer fields in the Willamette Valley as part of an effort to quash what is being called “the blackleg epidemic.”

Oregon State University researchers first spotted blackleg infection in the valley last year in certain vegetable seed crops, such as turnips and canola. The disease appears to be more prevalent this year, said Cindy Ocamb, in part because windblown spores from infected plant residue helped spread infections.

In addition to concerns about seed lots being contaminated, Ocamb said she now fears the disease could be moving into fresh vegetable acreage.

In January, ODA adopted a rule mandating that crucifer seed be tested, found free of blackleg and treated prior to being planted in the valley.

The newly proposed rule would require that growers also apply to the department for an inspection and cover a portion of the program’s cost at a rate of $6.50 an acre. Each acre would need to be inspected twice, once early in the growing season and at early- to mid-flowering.

Nancy Osterbauer, ODA’s plant health program manager, said the two inspections will help determine if the department’s recommendations for controlling the disease are working.

“Part of (the motivation behind the rule proposal) is an education process for everybody involved,” Osterbauer said.

Under the proposal, if blackleg is found in a field, certain mitigation requirements would kick in, such as fungicide treatments.

Osterbauer said the seed industry came to the department seeking the rule.

The rule will sunset in five years, according to the proposal.

A public hearing on the proposed rule is scheduled for June 22, beginning at 11 a.m., at the department’s Salem research farm, 151 Hawthorne Ave. NE.

Interested parties can comment at the hearing or through written correspondence, Osterbauer said.

“We welcome comments,” she said. “This is an industry rule.”

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